New Hampshire quietly fell under the realm of Secure Communities last week, the federal program looking for potential immigration violations that checks the fingerprints of anyone who has been arrested.
According to the website of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Secure Communities was activated throughout New Hampshire on May 8. On Tuesday, the program went into effect in Massachusetts and New York, where some political leaders have said it is not needed and unwanted.
Attrition through enforcement is the underlying strategy of Arizona's immigration law SB 1070. Supporters say it forces undocumented immigrants to make the "rational" decision to self-deport. In theory, they will do this when faced with an increased risk of being caught and officially deported, and a decreased chance of finding work.
This logic, however, doesn't hold. Why? Because undocumented immigrants have a lot to lose, and just walking away goes against human nature.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, more than one-third of undocumented immigrants own a home. This number rises to 45 percent among those who have been here more than 10 years. An estimated 37 percent of undocumented immigrants have U.S.-citizen children.
Consensus doesn’t seem to have a place in policy discussions about the state of the U.S. immigration system. But there is, at least, widespread agreement that the system needs fixing.
“Everyone will tell you the laws aren’t working,” says Brittney Nystrom, director of policy and legal affairs at the National Immigration Forum in Washington, D.C. But beyond that starting premise, views on immigration laws start to splinter.
“On both sides of this debate, there are deeply held beliefs about what immigration means to America,” says Nystrom. “On one side, you have the idea that we’re a nation of immigrants, and it’s healthy and important to keep that tradition alive. On the other side, you have the argument that immigrants are a burden. Trying to factually discuss immigration becomes almost impossible when people tend to fall into one camp or the other based on what they’re told.”
We are not sure how it would help the United States to see the exodus of millions of taxpayers with homes, cars, children and jobs. Yet, the hope for a mass exodus of people who fit that description is part of what inspired new immigration-enforcement laws in Arizona, Utah, Oklahoma, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama.
Best estimates say that roughly 11 million residents of the United States live here illegally. Some came here by getting away with misdemeanor border crossings. Others overstayed visas. Regardless, illegal residency is not a crime. It is a non-criminal, civil dispute with government.
Despite the Supreme Court justices’ apparent skepticism [“Justices receptive to parts of Arizona’s immigration law,” front page, April 26], the immigration status checks required by Arizona’s law subvert federal enforcement priorities and procedures. Section 2(B) requires Arizona police to verify the immigration status of all individuals arrested. This will result in thousands of additional verification requests to the federal government every year, significantly delay response times and divert scarce enforcement resources away from high-priority targets.
Section 2(B) also requires that, in the event of a lawful stop or an investigative detention, police check immigration status only if they have “reasonable suspicion” an individual is unlawfully present. Given the cursory nature of such stops, the complexities of federal immigration law and minimal guidance from the state law, police — under threat of civil damages — will be forced to rely on impermissible criteria such as race to make these determinations.
Such an arbitrary and unjust process contradicts the comprehensive enforcement scheme embodied in federal immigration law.
The Supreme Court of the United States, which heard arguments in the lawsuit against Arizona’s immigration enforcement law Wednesday, will not issue its decision until June, but opponents and supporters continue to argue the merits of the state’s crackdown.
The court heard arguments on the legality of only four provisions contained in the Arizona law, known as S.B. 1070. Analysts on both side of this issue say the court’s eventual decision will affect the future of immigration laws across the U.S.